May 1, 2005 Gauloises Yamaha Team rider Valentino Rossi made history once again today, becoming the first rider to take a MotoGP victory at Shanghai, with a stunning performance in torrentially wet conditions at the inaugural Grand Prix of China. Despite starting from sixth place on the grid Rossi took control of the race on the fifth lap, taking over from early leader Kenny Roberts (Suzuki) and opening up a clear gap over the chasing pack. It was an advantage the reigning World Champion would never let slip, holding his concentration for the next 17 laps despite the attentions of surprise challenger Olivier Jacque (Kawasaki), riding in place of the injured Alex Hofmann. Jacque passed Sete Gibernau (Honda) for second place with seven laps to go and closed in on Rossi at the front, but was unable to seriously threaten the Italian's second victory from the opening three rounds of the championship.
Former world champion Kenny Roberts Jr. was cruelly forced to retire whilst leading the race, his Suzuki GSV-R and Bridgestone tyres looking unbeatable until fate intervened.
Olivier Jacque delivered Kawasaki’s best-ever result in the premier class of motorcycle grand prix racing, with a masterful second place in a water-logged Chinese Grand Prix today. The podium position was also a personal best for the 31-year-old Frenchman in the premier class. Previously he was fourth in the 2003 French GP at Le Mans.
With Marco Melandri (Honda) eventually passing Gibernau on the final lap to snatch third place, Rossi's advantage at the top of the World Championship now stands at 25 points over his Italian compatriot.
After two days of wet and then dry conditions, the weather turned properly wet for race day. But the surface of the one-year-old Shanghai track proved exceptionally grippy where there wasn’t standing water and the best of the wet weather specialists revelled in the conditions.
John Hopkins (Suzuki) got a flier of a start from row two to head the pack into turn one with his team-mate Kenny Roberts right up with him from row three. Then Hopkins lost ground late in the lap to let Rossi and Tony Elias (Yamaha) through as lap two began.
The established order had been dismantled already, but the efforts of Elias, and then Alex Barros (Camel Honda RC211V) who was seventh in the early stages, were ruined by ‘ride through’ penalties. Both were judged to have jumped the start and were punished by a speed-limited ride along pitlane, putting them out of contention.
Roberts was holding onto his lead until he slowed with machine trouble on lap five. Troy Bayliss (Camel Honda RC211V) had fallen a lap earlier, then Hopkins ran off track two laps later. Rossi now led from Sete Gibernau (Team Movistar Honda RC211V) who was riding steadily at second, with Max Biaggi (Repsol Honda RC211V) in third.
Max, who had a nightmare time in qualifying, starting from 14th on the grid, had found some speed in the dreadful conditions. So had stand-in riders Olivier Jacque (replacing the injured Alex Hofmann at Kawasaki) and Jurgen van den Goorbergh who was riding in place of Makoto Tamada (Konica Minolta Honda RC211V) who has a broken wrist. Jacque lay fourth and van den Goorbergh fifth as riders approached mid-distance.
Jacque then overhauled Max for third and by lap 14 was up to second. Rossi held a six second advantage over the flying Frenchman who was now 2.2 seconds ahead of Gibernau in third by lap 16 of this 22-lap contest. Jacque was the fastest man on the track.
And Gibernau was in trouble as the flag loomed. Melandri was up with the Spaniard and passed him for third on the final lap while Rossi hung onto his lead to deny Jacque a fairytale comeback to MotoGP by just 1.7 seconds at the flag. Gibernau finished an anguished fourth as rear grip deteriorated, with Max fifth and van den Goorbergh a creditable sixth.
The World Championship points table looks like this after three races of this 17-race season: Rossi on 70 points, Melandri with 45, Barros on 43 and Max with 36.
The fourth round of the MotoGP World Championship is on May 15th at Le Mans in France.
Taobao Grand Prix of China Result (Round three): 1. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 50’02.463: 2. Olivier Jacque (Kawasaki) +1.700: 3. Marco Melandri (Honda) +16.574: 4. Sete Gibernau (Honda) +18.906: 5. Max Biaggi (Honda) +19.551: 6. Jurgen vd Goorbergh (Honda) +21.622: 7. John Hopkins (Team SUZUKI MotoGP) +25.883: 8. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) +31.033: 9. Nicky Hayden (Honda) +39.299: 10. Ruben Xaus (Yamaha) +40.991: Championship points (after three rounds): 1. Rossi 70: 2. Melandri 45: 3. Alex Barros (Honda) 43: 4. Biaggi 36: 5. Gibernau 33: 6. Edwards 25: 7. Jacque 20: 8. Shinya Nakano (Kawasaki) 19: 9. Carlos Checa (Ducati) 17: 10. Nicky Hayden (Honda) 16: 14. Hopkins 11: 19. Roberts JR 4.
Valentino Rossi, Gauloises Yamaha Team, reigning champion, points leader, winner under horrendous conditions: "Out of all the victories in my career, this was the one I least expected - I am really surprised. It is the first time I have won in the wet on the Yamaha, so it is a special victory. We had some problems with the set-up of the bike this weekend but the team made some modifications overnight, changing the front fork setting, and already in the warm-up it felt good. I got off to a good start in the race and I was quite surprised to be at the front so quickly. There was a lot of water on the track so I had to keep my concentration at 100%. I was smooth and in control all the way to the end, and the race worked out perfectly for me. All I can say is big thanks to Jeremy Burgess, the rest of the team and Yamaha because we have worked especially hard for this win.”
Davide Brivio, Gauloises Yamaha Team Director: “It was a fantastic day for us - Valentino was simply great. It was our first race in the wet since Jerez last season and I think we saw how much the bike has improved, so a big thank you goes out to all the team and engineers, who have worked hard under a lot of pressure. Colin's starting position made it hard for him but his pace was good and he picked up some important points. It's a pleasure for us to take the first win in China and it was important because we're now leading in the rider, team and manufacturers' championships. Now let's continue like this!”
Olivier Jacque, Kawasaki MotoGP, second place as stand-in rider in first race back in category: "For sure Valentino’s crew didn’t have my name ready to put on his pit board over the final laps, and I still don’t really understand how it all happened. It’s magic, better than winning the world title. When I arrived as a replacement rider on Thursday I said I felt like 'a hair on the soup' but today I felt like fish in water. I was comfortable with the conditions, had good grip from the tyres and my team gave me a confidence-boosting set-up. It’s strange to be here on the podium, I’m not sure how to feel."
Ichiro Yoda, Kawasaki MotoGP, Technical Director: "Incredible, I can’t believe this result and I don’t understand why a rider like Olivier is not in MotoGP full time. I hope the sport will see more of him. I worked with him at Yamaha for the 250 world championship so this result today with Kawasaki is very special for both of us."
Harald Eckl, Kawasaki MotoGP, Team Manager: "A fantastic result, and full credit to Olivier in very difficult conditions. Two weeks ago at Estoril we saw that he still had what it takes to race at this level, and today's result just goes to prove that the decision to put him on our bike for this race, and for the next at Le Mans, was the right one. The result also proves that Kawasaki's engineers have built an engine that is suited to these conditions. Finally, I must say a big thank to our tyre partner Bridgestone, they have done a lot of work on their wet weather tyres."
Marco Melandri, Movistar Honda MotoGP, third: "I'm very happy of this result. It could have been a great weekend for the team if it was dry. unfortunately the rain spoiled everything. This morning I had difficulties i made only a few laps. At the first laps of the race I was not very confident and lost a lot of positions. lap by lap I started to know better my bike on wet and started to go faster. Being 9th,I started to recover positions till I was 4th. In the last laps I saw that I could push harder so I finished third. I'm very happy for this result and my 2nd position in the championship."
Sete Gibernau, Movistar Honda MotoGP, fourth: "I'm very disappointed because during the weekend we had done a good work. this morning on wet I was confident and made 8 fast laps in a row. For the race we chose a harder tyre that, according to Michelin technicians, should have given us advantages with less water on track than this morning. During the warm up lap i had not a good feeling but i couldn't change tyre. The bike vibrated since the beginning and i had no confidence. I did my best to finish the race and get as much points as possible in these difficult situations."
Max Biaggi, Repsol Honda Team, fifth: “In dry conditions, with our set-up problems and the 14th qualifying time, things could have been much worse. But I can’t be happy with fifth place. That’s not what I and HRC are here for. Surely, under the rain the rider counts much more and I could partially close the gap between me and the fastest. But with these cornering problems I was forced to push it to the limit and even beyond the safety border. I gave my best for the entire race, but we are not doing well, not at all. We must grow much more and very soon or I won’t be able to compete for the top three positions.”
Jurgen van den Goorbergh, Konica Minolta Honda Rider, sixth: “I’m very happy about my performance. It has been really hard in the first few laps because there was a lot of water on the track and it was impossible to see who I had in front of me, but thanks to the great setting we found during the warm up I made to pass many opponents. The bike had a great balance which allowed me to be fast, constant and don’t wear out the tyres, therefore after having reached the fifth position I felt I could aim for the podium. But in the last few laps I decided to don’t jeopardize the hard work carried out during the weekend and I controlled the situation of the race. I have to thank the Team for how they have welcomed me and for their competency in approaching the race.”
John Hopkins, Team Suzuki MotoGP, seventh: “To be honest I’m pleased with the way I rode, but unfortunately I ran off and lost some places when I was up in fourth. I was comfortable on my Suzuki GSV-R but I pushed too hard and made the error. I was trying to make up more time on the riders in front of me - in a place that I knew I could do that - but just overshot and went into the gravel. This is my and Suzuki’s best result of the season so far and I led a MotoGP for the first time. Now that I’ve done that I really want to do it a lot more!.”
Paul Denning, Team Suzuki MotoGP, Team Manager: “It was great to see Kenny pulling away at the front of the field and being so aggressive yet so in control. Suzuki hasn’t had many opportunities to win a MotoGP recently and we definitely had one today. It was soul-destroying to see Kenny looking so strong only for the bike to suffer a mechanical problem. We’re sorry for ourselves but even sorrier for Kenny – he was on a mission and deserved so much more. John rode a great race and when he got into his rhythm he set some of the fastest laps. A podium was on the cards but he ran off track when the rain was at its heaviest and gone were his chances of his best ever finish. Having said that though, he fought back brilliantly and caught the group challenging for the podium but trouble with visibility at the end of the race hampered him from making any more passes. We still have a lot of improvements to make in all areas but today’s potential just goes to prove that Team SUZUKI MotoGP is fighting hard in every department.”
Colin Edwards, Gauloises Yamaha Team, eighth: “I got a good jump from the line but there were a couple of guys trying to be heroes in the first corner and they messed things up for me a little. After that I just tried to make up positions but the spray made it difficult and it was risky to get off the racing line. As soon as I had clear track in front of me my pace was as good as the guys at the front, but I had a problem shifting down through the gears and, coupled with the tyre wear, I couldn't do much more than bring it home in eighth. I'm disappointed but it's good to have a race in the wet and we know we're on the right line for the rest of the season. "
Nicky Hayden, Repsol Honda Team, ninth: “That was a pretty tough race in those conditions. The start was reasonably okay but then in the first few laps we really didn’t make much progress. We then picked up the pace and started moving forward and got into a pretty good rhythm and I was making a bit of a charge but then towards the end we picked up a bit of a problem. The bike started vibrating a bit and I lost a few places at the end which wasn’t cool. In the last few laps I just wanted to hang on and bring the bike home and pick up some points which we did. We just gotta’ learn and move on.”
Ruben Xaus, Fortuna Yamaha Team, tenth: “I am progressing, at least I was able to score some points and finish in the top ten, although I still owe my team a lot for the mistakes I made in pre-season. I rode very well in the warm-up and had a lot of confidence on the damp track, but I took it easy on the first corner as I did not want to risk anything. I let a few riders pass me and took the first few laps easy thinking about conserving my tyres. In the end that helped me and I was able to lap with times the same as the lead group, and score some points.”
Herve Poncharal, Fortuna Yamaha Team Director: “Toni was having a great race, but unfortunately the penalty for his wrong positioning did not allow him to continue with the lead group. It was a real shame! Despite that, Toni showed his great potential, not only during the race, but throughout the weekend too. He was quick both in dry and wet conditions, and that is very important. The potential is there. For Ruben, he put in a good showing and that is the second race that he has finished tenth. He rode a very intelligent race and little by little he is showing the potential that he has and that everyone knows about. He is adapting to the M1 and you can see that in the results.”
Alex Barros, Camel Honda, 11th: “It was a lost opportunity. The ride-through changed my race, and I had to make up ground from then on. I also had big problems with my vision being fogged, so much so that every lap I not only had to open the visor, but I had to pass my glove over it to clear it some more. I didn’t realize I made a jump start, I thought the bike just imperceptibly moved; then I got a bad start and I was in amongst a group of riders who were making lots of mistakes. It was hard to get by, because they were riding strange lines, but I managed to get past and made it up to seventh behind Melandri, when I realised I had been given the penalty. I went straight in to the pit-lane because you have to if your team and race direction are telling you. It’s a shame because I could have picked up points on Rossi, but instead I didn’t get the chance. I don’t want to think about it any more, and will concentrate on my next objective, Le Mans in two weeks time.”
Loris Capirossi Ducati MotoGP 12th: "The track was badly flooded in warm-up, so we ended up choosing quite a soft rear tyre for the race, too soft as it turned out," said the Italian. "There was less water on the track during the race, so things got difficult for me. Overall the machine worked pretty well but I still had some problems in the lower gears."
Livio Suppo, Ducati MotoGP Project Manager : "Of course we can't be happy with today's result," said. "We were going okay in the dry but the rain didn't help us at all. We know that the Bridgestone rain tyres worked well, thanks to Jacque's amazing result, but we weren't able to put together a good race ourselves. Wet races like today's can always be a bit of a lottery."
Toni Elias (Fortuna Yamaha Team) 14th: “I got away very well and was lapping comfortably for the first few laps with Rossi, Gibernau and Biaggi. But the race authorities warned me I had to enter the pit-lane for a penalty because I was not in the right position on the starting grid. I got confused with the positioning because in MotoGP you only have three bikes on each row. It's devastating, but in the end it was my own fault. I was having a great race. After the penalty I was able to climb back up the field a bit but it did not help much.”
Tohru Ukawa, Moriwaki Racing Honda, 15th: “To finish the race in 15th position is obviously not satisfactory when my personal challenge is to come in the top ten. There is a lot we need to do to suit the character of the Michelin tyres, which we studied on Friday in our first shake down attempt in dry conditions. Anyway, it takes time to learn, we are focused on the world level of Motorsport.
Carlos Checa Ducati MotoGP, DNF: "There was a lot of standing water, some areas were really bad, other areas I could catch people," explained the Spaniard. "In warm-up I didn't feel too confident, so I took my time in the race. I was beginning to build confidence when I lost the front at turn 16, maybe I used a little too much brake with a little too much angle. I guess I found the limit."
Troy Bayliss, Camel Honda, DNF: ”I’m disappointed because I could have got a good result today. This morning in the warm-up I had a really good feeling in the hard rain and I was confident for the race. However later, in the race was not the same, I got a lot of wheel spin, and after the start I was in about tenth place. There was so much water and on the fourth lap on the long left I lost the rear end. What can I say, sometimes racing’s like this. All I can say is that I’ll be aiming to go well in the next GP.”
Kenny Roberts Jr. Team SUZUKI MotoGP, DNF: “I don’t think there is much to say to make it any better. We easily let a first or second place slip today. I made a decent start and got to the front on the first lap. Valentino Rossi and I pulled away and I was quite comfortable until the problem. I was nearly a second up on Rossi and a further five seconds up on the next group. It would be nice to have some good luck as I’ve been struggling to find any in the last couple of races or even last couple of seasons. Maybe this is a sign that things will soon start to improve for me on that side.”
Shinya Nakano, Kawasaki MotoGP, DNF: "On lap one I had a strange feeling from the motor, and then on lap two it felt like I lost power from one cylinder with a misfire. I’m very disappointed, I don’t like losing championship points like this, although there are still a lot of races to go."
THE TRACK: The Shanghai International circuit, situated outside China’s prosperous metropolitan port city, hosted its first race just over six months ago but is already acknowledged as one of the most impressive race venues on earth. Vast grandstands overlook an equally impressive pits and paddock complex adjacent to the high-speed 5.451km/3.387 mile circuit. The track includes two very fast straights where bikes are expected to exceed 320km/199mph and a series of tight corners, including two long right-handers that take riders almost through 360 degrees. This is a new circuit to MotoGP bikes, so lap and race records have yet to be established.
Odds for the race after qualifying and before race: Moto Grand Prix China, Shanghai Sete Gibernau 2.15 Valentino Rossi 2.6 Marco Melandri 9.5 Alex Barros 15 Loris Capirossi 15 Nicky Hayden 17 Max Biaggi 20 Carlos Checa 30 Colin Edwards 50 John Hopkins 50 Troy Bayliss 67 Shinya Nakano 80 Kenny Roberts 90 Tony Elias 100 Tohru Ukawa 151 Ruben Xaus 167 Olivier Jacque 201 Jurgen van de Goorbergh 251.00
Odds for World Championship just prior to race: Valentino Rossi 1.36 Sete Gibernau 4.50 Alex Barros 7.75 Max Biaggi 11.75 Marco Melandri 17.00 Nicky Hayden 26.75 Colin Edwards 35.00 Shinya Nakano 38.75 Loris Capirossi 47.50 Carlos Checa 51.00 Troy Bayliss 53.50 Makoto Tamada 63.50
Odds for Moto GP Championship after race: V Rossi 1.25 S Gibernau 5.00 M Melandri 11.00 M Biaggi 17.00 A Barros 17.00 T Bayliss 67.00 N Hayden 67.00 L Capirossi 67.00 C Edwards 67.00 S Nakano 101.00 M Tamada 101.00 C Checa 101.00